Children prefer people who speak like them: Study

(IANS) Have you ever thought what kind of friends children prefer? They prefer to befriend, listen to, and imitate people who speak like them, finds a new study.

The findings, published in the journal ‘Child Development’, suggest that cultural backgrounds do not impact children’s preference for native over non-native speakers.

“Consistent with prior research, we found that infants and children overall prefer those who speak in the same accent, dialect or language as themselves,” said researcher Jessica Spence from the University of Queensland in Australia.

“Interestingly, we also found that bilingual children and children exposed to other accents, dialects and languages displayed just as much preference for speakers of their own linguistic variety — if not more — than monolingual children and those who were not exposed to other ways of speaking,” Spence added.

For the study, the team examined children’s linguistic-based social preferences and found 38 studies published between 1980 and 2020.

The studies involved 2,680 infants and children ranging from 2 days old to 11 years of age with the following sample characteristics — 13 different countries, diverse range of socio-economic backgrounds, spoke different primary languages, etc.

The meta-analysis examined the overall effect of linguistic cues on children’s social preferences and also investigated how the mean age of the sample, bilingualism, exposure to non-native speech, cultural background, type of measure used to assess preferences (implicit, explicit behavioural, or explicit forced-choice) and type of linguistic cue (accent, dialect or language) influences children’s linguistic-based social preferences.

Contrary to past assumptions, however, children raised in a diverse environment may have a greater awareness of linguistic-based group differences.

The researchers said that the new meta-analysis including studies with monolingual as well as bilingual children helps to shed light on the range of factors that contribute to the development of linguistic-based biases in early childhood.

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